I promised a “final thoughts” post on yoga teacher training. I thought that I would want to write it immediately but instead I needed time to let everything sink in. It’s been about six weeks since training ended and in that time I have started teaching and have had the opportunity to reflect on my experience. I am ready to share. Hold on, it’s going to be a long one.
(photo credit: wanda koch)
I just completed my 200 hour registered yoga teacher training with Johnna Smith and Tanner Bazemore at Y2 Yoga, the studio where I have been practicing for the last year and a half. Training began in January and finished the first weekend of April. Our training was done in weekends where we met Fridays from 6-9 p.m., Saturdays from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. We started each day with a yoga practice and spent the rest of our days learning about a variety of topics. A little sample…meditation, breathing exercises, anatomy, assisting, teaching skills, sanskrit lessons, yoga history/philosophy and much, much more. Outside of training we had reading assignments and requirements to observe and assist classes.
The decision to commit to teacher training was not an easy one. I struggled with whether it was the right time in my life, if I could make it fit into the budget and if the time requirement could work with my already jam-packed life. I also took into consideration how much I enjoyed being a student of yoga and NOT the teacher. I knew that going through teacher training would change things with my personal practice.
I shared my difficulties with making the decision on my blog and received some very encouraging and thought-provoking comments. After weeks and weeks of internally debating the pros and cons and heart-to-heart conversations with family and friends, I finally decided to go for it. There was never going to be a “perfect” time and I couldn’t be sure when the opportunity would present itself again…and what would be going on in my life at that time.
HIGHS AND LOWS
I knew from talking with friends who had completed teacher training, and from the sheer intensity of the physical and mental commitment required, that teacher training would be an emotional experience. As silly as this sounds, I promised myself at the beginning of training that I wouldn’t cry while I was there. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a few breakdowns outside of training but I was determined to maintain my composure among my fellow trainees.
Some days I was on a total high from training. I couldn’t get enough. I would come home all smiles and would talk for hours about everything we were learning and doing. Other days, I would find myself feeling a little down, introspective and on the verge of tears. It was very interesting to monitor my attitude and see how much things could shift from weekend to weekend and even day to day.
(photo credit: wanda koch)
THE PHYSICAL PRACTICE
From a physical standpoint, we practiced every morning during our training weekends, whether our bodies wanted to or not. You dealt with what your body was giving you at that time. There was a lot to be learned about honoring your body and kindly asking it to do things it might not feel like doing. During this time my ashtanga practice deepened and improved significantly. I even began to dabble in second series.
One thing that surprised me about teacher training was how much your asana practice didn’t matter. I questioned whether my practice was strong enough for teacher training. I came to find that everyone was at a totally different level and teacher training was about SO MUCH MORE than your asana practice. Yes, we practiced a ton but you didn’t have to be a super amazing, bendy yogi to make a good teacher. You just had to truly love yoga.
THE MENTAL PRACTICE
From a mental standpoint, I was participating in meditation exercises and pranayama (breathing techniques) for the very first time. These types of things can really stir things up on the inside and start to chip away at walls you’ve built up. I really resisted meditation and because I disliked it so much, I know it’s something I need to work on. I think it’s a pretty clear indicator that more time spent inside of my own head without constant “go, go, go” is something I could really benefit and gain a lot of self-growth from.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how strong of a bond I formed with the 11 other yogis in training with me and how vulnerable, open and honest everyone was with each other. There were so many intense discussions about a wide variety of subjects. This discussion forced you to really evaluate your life – who you are, what you stand for and who you want to be.
For every intense, tearful and passionate conversation that we had there were at least 10 joyful, funny and happy moments. The list of memorable moments that had us almost in tears laughing is a mile long. The friendship that we all formed over those three months was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I honestly consider them my “yoga family” now and I look forward to running into them at the studio and around town. It feels amazing to be a part of such a strong community of yogis.
This all happened under the guidance of our phenomenal teachers, Johnna and Tanner. The training that they put together for us was the perfect mix of serious and lighthearted, old school and modern day, emotional and physical. They each have very different strengths and to balance between the two was right on. Their training was the perfect fit for where I was in life.
OH YEAH, THE TEACHING PART
So it seems like the point of teacher training would be to learn to teach and it is…to a point. It’s much more about exploring your love for yoga and deepening your practice. Some people who enroll in teacher training never even want to teach. They just want the experience of immersing themselves in it.
But even if you have no intentions of teaching you learn to teach! It was really cool to watch everyone grow as teachers. The final weekend we were videotaped teaching and it was inspirational to watch everyone glowing with happiness and confidence as they led the class.
I was a little surprised to find that teaching yoga felt nothing like teaching my group exercise classes at the Y. Yes, the basic elements of a good teacher were there – I coached, I cued, I spoke clearly and loudly – but the authenticity was totally missing. I had the barometer in my head of what it feels like to teach my other classes and I just couldn’t get anywhere near that with yoga. Also, keeping your rights and lefts straight is a huge challenge! 😉
From January to April my life was consumed by yoga. I all but gave up running and focused on teacher training and my practice. I missed trips out of town and social engagements. My weekends were spent in the studio instead of with Brandon. I couldn’t even imagine what normal life would feel like when training was over.
And now, it’s over. And things have shifted in many ways.
From a “how it’s changed my life perspective.” First, I left training completely determined to achieve some goals that I have set for myself. Goals that have been pushed aside for too long. I believe in myself, in my ability to achieve these goals and to succeed. I am inspired to live a life full of passion, love and good.
Second, I want to be a better person. Teacher training put me on the path to becoming a greater, more positive, more loving version of myself. Someone who doesn’t think negatively of myself and those around me but someone who sees the good and works for the good. Someone who has a purpose and for me that is helping those around me live healthier and happier lives.
From a “now I’m a yoga teacher perspective.” I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to teach at my studio after training. It’s been a learning process. The first few classes were hard. I struggled with being present and being myself. That’s getting easier week by week. As the yoga vocabulary becomes more natural, I am able to insert a little more of my personality into the class.
What has thrown me for a loop is that I’m experiencing a bit of a down swing in my practice. Between working full-time, teaching at the Y and starting to teach some yoga classes, there hasn’t been much time for my personal practice. And that makes me a little sad. I’ve been missing the fire and the passion to be on my mat. I think the experience of teacher training was so intense that my mind and body just need a little distance to let everything soak in. I know that over time my practice will ebb and flow so I am not letting this get me down. It will come back when it’s ready.
(photo credit: wanda koch)
I can’t believe I considered not going through teacher training. It was a transformational experience and my life has been forever changed. It has set so many good things in motion and shown me the way to the path I want to be on. I am extremely grateful to my teachers for sharing their knowledge and lighting a fire within us; to my fellow teacher trainees for their willingness to bare their souls and be honest, true friends; and to my husband keeping true to his word and giving me endless support and encouragement.